The Islamic celebration of Ramadan began at sundown on Thursday. As New York state remains in lockdown over the coronavirus, the holy month will look different this year -- but the religious lessons remain the same.
Muslims around the world will be participating in a monthlong fast broken only at sundown at each day for iftar, the evening meal, as it has been since the seventh century.
This year, instead of large gatherings for iftar, Tabassam Javed with the Islamic Center of Rochester says that the center will be providing a no-contact iftar and virtual prayers that people can join online.
“So what the imam will do is recite the Quran the same way as if he were right there in the mosque, you know, reciting it,” Javed says.
He says the Islamic Center decided to offer distributed meals when they saw there was a need, particularly among stranded college students and refugee families.
“The month of Ramadan teaches us to identify with the people who are without food, so that’s why there’s a tremendous emphasis to go find somebody who doesn’t have food so you can go give it and share it," Javed says.
Mubarak Bashir with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community says they also are turning to technology to hold presentations and an interfaith discussion throughout Ramadan.
He says that fasting includes not only abstaining from food and drink, it also means forgoing arguments and “vain talk” in pursuit of a deeper spiritual practice.
"Ramadan gives us 30 days to become the best people that we can be," Mubarak says. "So we're fasting, we're refraining from food. This gives us an idea of how those that are less fortunate are."